Biden And Polis Are Talking Wildfire Prevention And Preparedness Today

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
June 2021 in the Cameron Peak Fire burn scar near Rustic, Colorado. The 2020 fire burned over 208,663 acres in Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Rocky Mountain National Park, making it the largest in state recorded history.

Wildfires will be the topic of conversation between President Joe Biden, Gov. Jared Polis and several other Western governors today. 

Many experts fear this wildfire season could be worse than last year's, when Colorado saw three of its largest recorded wildfires, each burning more than 100,000 acres. This season is already outpacing last when it comes to the number of large wildfires. The extreme drought and intense heat in the West are fanning concerns about the potential for wildfires.

Polis will be attending the session remotely, with the other Western governors. They’re convening for a Western Governor’s Meeting.

Biden, governors, Cabinet officials and private sector partners, such as utility companies, are expected to discuss how to strengthen “prevention, preparedness and response efforts.”

A senior administration official said Biden also wants to hear what resources Western governors need and what steps should be taken “immediately to protect communities, improve emergency preparedness and address the growing wildfire threat” that’s facing the West.

The senior administration official said Biden “is taking this threat seriously because wildfires are obviously getting worse.”

“And the president strongly believes that it's time the federal government stopped under-investing in prevention and mitigation efforts and that we started investing in our response capabilities and our firefighting personnel so that we can better protect the people of this country,” the official said.

The Biden administration is expected to announce a series of actions to that end. It includes raising pay for firefighters through retention incentives and bonuses so that no federal firefighter earns less than $15 per hour.

This is an issue that several members of Congress are also working on, including Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse.

Biden is also expected to announce extending seasonal hiring for firefighters, hire more firefighters, add surge capacity, and push plans for a more permanent federal firefighting workforce. Plans also include investments to build community resilience and do more pre-disaster mitigation efforts and use technology to improve early detection.